Intense Sweets Taste Especially Good To Some Kids

There should be an image here!New research from the Monell Center reports that children’s response to intense sweet taste is related to both a family history of alcoholism and the child’s own self-reports of depression.

The findings illustrate how liking for sweets differs among children based on underlying familial and biological factors.

“We know that sweet taste is rewarding to all kids and makes them feel good,” said study lead author Julie A. Mennella, PhD, a developmental psychobiologist at Monell. “In addition, certain groups of children may be especially attracted to intense sweetness due to their underlying biology.”

Because sweet taste and alcohol activate many of the same reward circuits in the brain, the researchers examined the sweet preferences of children with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. They also studied the influence of depression, hypothesizing that children with depressive symptoms might have a greater affinity for sweets because sweets make them feel better.

In the study, published online in the journal Addiction, 300 children between 5 and 12 years of age tasted five levels of sucrose (table sugar) in water to determine their most preferred level of sweetness. The children also were asked questions to assess the presence of depressive symptoms, while their mothers reported information on family alcohol use.

Nearly half (49 percent) of the children had a family history of alcoholism, based on having a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle who had received a diagnosis of alcohol dependence. Approximately one-quarter were classified as exhibiting depressive symptoms.

Liking for intense sweetness was greatest in the 37 children having both a positive family history of alcoholism and also reporting depressive symptoms. The most liked level of sweetness for these children was 24 percent sucrose, which is equivalent to about 14 teaspoons of sugar in a cup of water and more than twice the level of sweetness in a typical cola. This was one third more intense than the sweetness level preferred by the other children, which was 18 percent sucrose.

Mennella noted that the findings do not necessarily mean that there is a relationship between early sweet preferences and alcoholism later in life. “At this point, we don’t know whether this higher ‘bliss point’ for sweets is a marker for later alcohol use,” she said.

Previous studies have suggested that sweets may help to alleviate depressive symptoms in adults. In a similar vein, sweets are rewarding to children not only because they taste good, but also because they act as analgesics to reduce pain. Because of this, the study also examined the ability of sweet taste to reduce pain in the children by measuring the amount of time they could keep their hand submerged in a tub of cold water (10° C / 50° F) while holding either sucrose or water in their mouth.

The sucrose acted as an effective analgesic for the non-depressed children, who kept their hands in the cold water bath for 36 percent longer when holding sucrose in the mouth.

However, the researchers found that sucrose had no effect on the pain threshold of children reporting depressive symptoms. These children kept their hand in the cold water bath for the same amount of time regardless of whether they had water or sucrose in their mouths.

“It may be that even higher levels of sweetness are needed to make depressed children feel better,” said Mennella.

Citing global initiatives to promote a healthier diet lower in refined sugars, Mennella notes that the current findings highlight the need for additional research to identify whether these clusters of children will require different strategies to help them reduce their intake of sweets.

James Treadwell @ University of Leicester

[Photo above by Swamibu / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:alcoholism sobriety]

Excessive Internet Use Is Linked To Depression

There should be an image here!People who spend a lot of time browsing the net are more likely to show depressive symptoms, according to the first large-scale study of its kind in the West by University of Leeds psychologists.

Researchers found striking evidence that some users have developed a compulsive Internet habit, whereby they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites. The results suggest that this type of addictive surfing can have a serious impact on mental health.

Lead author Dr Catriona Morrison, from the University of Leeds, said: “The Internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side.

“While many of us use the Internet to pay bills, shop and send emails, there is a small subset of the population who find it hard to control how much time they spend online, to the point where it interferes with their daily activities.”

These ‘Internet addicts’ spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying Web sites, online gaming sites and online communities. They also had a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression than non-addicted users.

“Our research indicates that excessive Internet use is associated with depression, but what we don’t know is which comes first — are depressed people drawn to the Internet or does the Internet cause depression?

“What is clear, is that for a small subset of people, excessive use of the Internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies.”

Incidents such as the spate of suicides among teenagers in the Welsh town of Bridgend in 2008 led many to question the extent to which social networking sites can contribute to depressive thoughts in vulnerable teenagers. In the Leeds study, young people were more likely to be Internet addicted than middle-aged users, with the average age of the addicted group standing at 21 years.

“This study reinforces the public speculation that over-engaging in Web sites that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction,” added Dr Morrison. “We now need to consider the wider societal implications of this relationship and establish clearly the effects of excessive Internet use on mental health.”

This was the first large-scale study of Western young people to consider the relationship between Internet addiction and depression. The Internet use and depression levels of 1,319 people aged 16-51 were evaluated for the study, and of these, 1.2% were classed as being Internet addicted. While small, this figure is larger than the incidence of gambling in the UK, which stands at 0.6%. The research will be published in the journal Psychopathology on 10th February.

Hannah Isom @ University of Leeds

[Photo above by lintmachine / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:Internet depression]

Can Blocking A Frown Keep Bad Feelings At Bay?

 border=Your facial expression may tell the world what you are thinking or feeling. But it also affects your ability to understand written language related to emotions, according to research that was presented today to the Society for Personal and Social Psychology in Las Vegas, and will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

The new study reported on 40 people who were treated with botulinum toxin, or Botox. Tiny applications of this powerful nerve poison were used to deactivate muscles in the forehead that cause frowning.

The interactions of facial expression, thoughts and emotions has intrigued scientists for more than a century, says the study’s first author, University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology Ph.D. candidate David Havas.

Scientists have found that blocking the ability to move the body causes changes in cognition and emotion, but there were always questions. (One of the test treatments caused widespread, if temporary, paralysis.) In contrast, Havas was studying people after a pinpoint treatment to paralyze a single pair of “corrugator” muscles, which cause brow-wrinkling frowns.

To test how blocking a frown might affect comprehension of language related to emotions, Havas asked the patients to read written statements, before and then two weeks after the Botox treatment. The statements were angry (“The pushy telemarketer won’t let you return to your dinner”); sad (“You open your email in-box on your birthday to find no new emails”); or happy (“The water park is refreshing on the hot summer day.”)

Havas gauged the ability to understand these sentences according to how quickly the subject pressed a button to indicate they had finished reading it. “We periodically checked that the readers were understanding the sentences, not just pressing the button,” says Havas.

The results showed no change in the time needed to understand the happy sentences. But after Botox treatment, the subjects took more time to read the angry and sad sentences. Although the time difference was small, it was significant, he adds. Moreover, the changes in reading time couldn’t be attributed to changes in participants’ mood.

The use of Botox to test how making facial expressions affect emotional centers in the brain was pioneered by, Andreas Hennenlotter of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany.

“There is a long-standing idea in psychology, called the facial feedback hypothesis,” says Havas. “Essentially, it says, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you. It’s an old song, but it’s right. Actually, this study suggests the opposite: When you’re not frowning, the world seems less angry and less sad.”

The Havas study broke new ground by linking the expression of emotion to the ability to understand language, says Havas’s advisor, UW-Madison professor emeritus of psychology Arthur Glenberg. “Normally, the brain would be sending signals to the periphery to frown, and the extent of the frown would be sent back to the brain. But here, that loop is disrupted, and the intensity of the emotion, and of our ability to understand it when embodied in language, is disrupted.”

Practically, the study “may have profound implications for the cosmetic-surgery,” says Glenberg. “Even though it’s a small effect, in conversation, people respond to fast, subtle cues about each other’s understanding, intention and empathy. If you are slightly slower reacting as I tell you about something made me really angry, that could signal to me that you did not pick up my message.”

Such an effect could snowball, Havas says, but the outcome could also be positive: “Maybe if I am not picking up sad, angry cues in the environment, that will make me happier.”

In theoretical terms, the finding supports a psychological hypothesis called “embodied cognition,” says Glenberg, now a professor of psychology at Arizona State University. “The idea of embodied cognition is that all our cognitive processes, even those that have been thought of as very abstract, are actually rooted in basic bodily processes of perception, action and emotion.”

With some roots in evolutionary theory, the embodied cognition hypothesis suggests that our thought processes, like our emotions, are refined through evolution to support survival and reproduction.

Embodied cognition links two seemingly separate mental functions, Glenberg says. “It’s been speculated at least since Darwin that the peripheral expression of emotion is a part of the emotion. An important role of emotion is social: it communicates, ‘I love’ or ‘I hate you,’ and it makes sense that there would be this very tight connection between peripheral expression and brain mechanism.”

“Language has traditionally been seen as a very high level, abstract process that is divorced from more primitive processes like action, perception and emotion,” Havas says. “This study shows that far from being divorced from emotion, language understanding can be hindered when those peripheral bodily mechanism are interrupted.”

David Havas @ University of Wisconsin – Madison

[Photo above by bensonkua / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:bad brains hardcore]

Few Americans With Major Depression Receive Adequate Treatment

There should be an image here!Many U.S. adults with major depression do not receive treatment for depression or therapy based on treatment guidelines, and some racial and ethnic groups have even lower rates of adequate depression care, according to a report in the January issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Depression is a leading cause of disability among many racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to background information in the article. Pharmacotherapy (including antidepressants) and psychotherapy are both effective, well tolerated treatments for depression when provided according to established guidelines (such as those from the American Psychiatric Association), the authors note. Previous research suggests that many individuals are untreated or undertreated, but most studies of depression care have not distinguished between the two modalities and have also aggregated major racial and ethnic groups (for instance, combining all Latino individuals instead of examining specific subgroups, such as Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans).

Hector M. González, Ph.D., of Wayne State University, Detroit, and colleagues assessed the prevalence and adequacy of depression care among different racial and ethnic groups in the United States by analyzing data from the National Institute of Mental Health’s Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys. This initiative combines three nationally representative studies, during which face-to-face interviews were conducted with 15,762 individuals age 18 and older throughout the country between 2001 and 2003.

Of the adults surveyed, 8.3 percent had major depression, including 8 percent of Mexican Americans, 11.8 percent of Puerto Ricans, 7.9 percent of Caribbean blacks, 6.7 percent of African Americans and 8.5 percent of non-Latino whites.

Overall, more than half of those with depression received at least one form of depression care, but only about one in five (21.3 percent) had received at least one form of therapy that conformed to established treatment guidelines within the previous year. Psychotherapy was more commonly used than pharmacotherapy, and individuals undergoing psychotherapy were more likely to receive treatment in alignment with clinical guidelines than were individuals taking medications.

Mexican American and African American individuals with depression consistently had lower odds of receiving any type of care or care in concordance with treatment guidelines during the year prior. “The proportions of Puerto Rican and non-Latino white individuals who used concordant therapies in the past year were nearly twice those of Mexican American, Caribbean black and African American individuals,” the authors write.

The findings illustrate the importance of breaking down large ethnic and racial groups into smaller sub-categories, they note. “Failing to do so obscures depression care research, especially for the largest and fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, Latino individuals, and especially Mexican American individuals.”

“With the recent passing of a U.S. Mental Health Parity Act, our findings should provide guidance to better-enabled mental health to improve the depression care of all Americans and for reducing disparities among ethnic/racial minorities,” they conclude.

Julie O’Connor @ JAMA and Archives Journals

[Photo above by Assbach / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:history of the blues]

Earlier Bedtimes May Help Protect Adolescents Against Depression And Suicidal Thoughts

There should be an image here!A study in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep found that adolescents with bedtimes that were set earlier by parents were significantly less likely to suffer from depression and to think about committing suicide, suggesting that earlier bedtimes could have a protective effect by lengthening sleep duration and increasing the likelihood of getting enough sleep.

Results show that adolescents with parental set bedtimes of midnight or later were 24 percent more likely to suffer from depression (odds ratio = 1.24) and 20 percent more likely to have suicidal ideation (OR=1.20) than adolescents with parental set bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier. This association was appreciably attenuated by self-reported sleep duration and the perception of getting enough sleep. Adolescents who reported that they usually sleep for five or fewer hours per night were 71 percent more likely to suffer from depression (OR=1.71) and 48 percent more likely to think about committing suicide (OR=1.48) than those who reported getting eight hours of nightly sleep. Participants who reported that they “usually get enough sleep” were significantly less likely to suffer from depression (OR=0.35) and suicidal ideation (OR=0.71).

Lead author James E. Gangwisch, PhD, assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, N.Y., said that the results strengthen the argument that short sleep duration could play a role in the etiology of depression.

“Our results are consistent with the theory that inadequate sleep is a risk factor for depression, working with other risk and protective factors through multiple possible causal pathways to the development of this mood disorder,” said Gangwisch. “Adequate quality sleep could therefore be a preventative measure against depression and a treatment for depression.”

Data were collected from 15,659 adolescents and their parents who had participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a school-based, nationally representative, probability-based sample of U.S. students in grades seven to 12 in 1994 to 1996. Seven percent of participants (1,050) were found to have depression using the Centers for Epidemiologic Study-Depression Scale, and 13 percent (2,038) reported that they seriously thought about committing suicide during the past 12 months. Depression and suicidal ideation were associated with later parental set bedtime, shorter sleep duration, self-perception of not getting enough sleep, female sex, older age and lower self-perception of how much parents care.

Fifty-four percent of parents reported that their adolescent had to go to bed by 10 p.m. or earlier on weeknights, 21 percent reported setting a bedtime of 11 p.m., and 25 percent reported setting a bedtime of midnight or later. Caucasians were more likely than adolescents of other racial/ethnic groups to have a parental set bedtime of 11 p.m. Nearly 70 percent of adolescents reported going to bed at a time that complied with the weeknight bedtime that was set by their parents. Adolescents reported going to bed only about five minutes later on average than their parental set bedtime.

The average adolescent-reported sleep duration was seven hours and 53 minutes, which contrasted sharply with the nine or more hours of nightly sleep that the AASM recommends for adolescents. Participants with a parental set bedtime of 10 p.m. or earlier reported that they usually slept for an average of eight hours and 10 minutes, which was 33 minutes more than adolescents with a bedtime of 11 p.m. (seven hours, 37 minutes) and 40 minutes more than those with a bedtime of midnight or later (seven hours, 30 minutes). With the exception of sleep durations of 10 hours or more per night, higher average self-reported sleep durations were associated with progressively earlier average bedtimes.

The authors reported that there are a number of potential mechanisms by which chronic partial sleep deprivation could contribute to depression and suicidal ideation. A lack of sleep may affect the modulation of emotional brain responses to aversive stimuli; produce moodiness that hinders the ability to cope with daily stresses and impairs relationships with peers and adults; and affect judgment, concentration and impulse control.

They also suggested that behavioral interventions that involve educating adolescents and their parents about healthier sleep hygiene practices and helping them modify maladaptive sleep habits could sever as primary preventative measures against depression and suicidal ideation.

Kelly Wagner @ American Academy of Sleep Medicine

[Photo above by Xtream_I / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:coping with depression]

Tips For Managing Stress

It is important to recognize that stress is part of your life and that it is important that you learn to manage your stress. One of the best ways to do this is to maintain a balance in your life that works for you. Some people are able to deal with much higher levels of stress than others because they have taken steps to manage their stress.

One of the most important steps in managing your stress is recognizing that maintaining good health with a balanced diet, good exercise program and adequate amount of sleep is critical. Not only will you be able to maintain greater energy at work and at home but you will also be able to approach stressful situations with a better frame of mind. You must also be able to recognize when the situation is getting too stressful for you and then take actions to deal or manage the stress.

If you recognize that the stress will be short-lived, you may choose to increase your exercise regime, increase your relaxation time or work hard to get the tasks done quickly. However, you may decide that the stress will be longer-term and you may have to decide how to manage it.

Some ideas may include planning your daily schedule differently so that you break up the day with your exercise routine, you may be more careful with your diet and plan some breaks. You may also decide that this level of stress is not worth it and begin looking for another job.


Effects Of Stress

It is impossible to live and not experience stress. This stress can be caused by your work, by family pressures, or by a lack of balance of life and work. Stress can have different effects on people which can impact on their health, their productivity at work and their relationships. Stress can actually make you sick as your body begins to react to the high level or long-term consistent stress. Each person will react differently to stress but it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other illnesses.

At work, stress can cause problems with concentration, memory, and productivity by an inability to begin or complete tasks. Stress often causes depression in people who experience it for long periods or experience high levels of stress. This depression can begin to cause not only problems in the effectiveness at work but also in personal relationships.

People who feel stress are difficult to get along with. They can be difficult to work with and to live with. It is important that people take steps to reduce the stress in their lives. Managing stress is important to maintain good health, a successful professional career, and healthy personal relationships.


Educate Yourself About Our Financial Times

Over and over it’s obvious that the vast majority of people I speak with have no real idea what the current financial situation is all about, how it happened, and how it works.

It’s not often I’ll ask people to take the time to listen to an audio show, no matter what. But in this case, I think it’s important enough. With all the media discussion about the gloom and doom of the current economic mess, there’s been little or no meaningful education about what caused it and where we are now. Panic reporting doesn’t prepare anyone. History and analysis does.

So: Listen to two audio episodes of a show called This American Life, which are linked below, and you’ll be a much more aware citizen. You’ll find yourself much better prepared to think about where we are and where we’re going. Understanding how we got here is critical to understanding where we’re going, and why.

I hope this is helpful to at least one person. I know I found the reporting and explanations cogent, thoughtful, understandable, non-partisan, and non-political, and — as a result — quite valuable.

Let me know what you think.


Is The United States Economy on the Verge of Collapse?

It did not take someone of genius intelligence to figure out that the war economy was devastating our economic future. One only had to realize that the billions of dollars being spent on the war effort and the national attention that it was diverting from domestic issues was bound to jeopardize national security on a note closer to home than Iraq.

Unfortunately, our esteemed leaders, mainly our blind president, refused to see the possibility of disaster until now when it could be too late to avoid a tragic depression that will make the 1929 collapse of the stock market look like a mild hiccup in the grand scheme of things. That makes me wonder how someone with an average intelligence could tell we were in trouble as soon as the national debt escalated to the trillion dollar mark while our commander in chief and his minions kept reiterating the fact that the economy was basically sound and a recession could be avoided.

I believe that their blind sightedness to the economic issues is at least in part due to their ridiculous foreign policies that have made them one of the piranhas of the modern world. Or was it that they were to weak to admit the failure of their economic policies? Well, let’s face it folks the recession is here and isn’t likely to go anywhere any time soon.

As a result of these failed policies millions will soon lose their jobs (yes, even some of you reading this article who thought your jobs were a sure thing due to longevity or whatever) as our economy is attacked by everything from high energy costs, inflation, the subprime mortgage crisis, a plummeting stock market, weak retail sales, and the decline in the housing and manufacturing markets. While we have faced and survived similar economics downturns over the years this one is sure to be one of the worst and may take years not months to recover from. Of course, Old George wants to make us think that the next president can fix his errors in a few short months but the grave he has dug us into is going to take more than a few shovels of good fortune to fix.

To be fair, however, the failure lies with all the members of both parties in Washington who have been more concerned about fighting wars, getting reelected and catering to special interest groups than in performing their best for the citizenry that elected them. It is a sad day indeed when the country stands on the precipice of a national election and the populace is faced on voting once again for the lesser of the evils that are being offered up for nomination.

Today I voted, not for who I thought would make the best presidential choice or who could actually change the downward spiral America is on but on who might do the least damage in the future. After twenty years of a Bush/Clinton White House and legislatures who have been bought by lobbyists long before they take office isn’t it time for change. I am not talking about anarchy or violent change but a change in the electoral practices that only allow rich, powerful men who have their own agendas to have the opportunity to run for national offices. It is time to give an independent without any strings attached to him by bigwig CEOs or lobbyists a chance to truly turn this country back to the roots that our Founding Fathers sacrificed their lives to give us. Remember apathy is always a precursor to destruction and Americans now seek dependence on the government by asking for more and more handouts from the treasury coffers which make us ever and ever more susceptible to dictator control. Just think about after 9/11 when Bush made maumau sounds about extending the two term limit for president and the devastation his actions that amounted to little more than those of a dictator caused. 

 So remember, the economy is in the hands of the American people. All that has happened has occurred under George W. Bush’s watch and he cannot simply wipe away his responsibility when another owned politician takes over his office. Like so many of America’s problems, this cold have been avoided or the impact blunted if both parties and Bush had not been asleep at the wheel and so determined to keep the warmongering spirit of revenge alive. Who do you vote for? I don’t have an answer but you must vote if you realize that this country is in trouble and you want real change.

[tags]United States economy, economy, Economic collapse, Bush Administration, Iraq War, Clinton, 9/11, lobbyists, special interest groups, retail markets, housing decline, stock market plummet, subprime mortgage crisis, energy costs, depression, national debt, foreign policy, national security[/tags]